Sunday, July 10, 2016

3 Weeks in London: Global Heath

While in London, we discussed issues that are related to health around the globe. Global Health is a collection of problems that is based largely on ethics and a collected vision of how the world should be.

One of the first things we talked about were the Millennium Development Goals set in place by the United Nations as world-wide goals to be met by the year 2016. We touched on almost every goal while in class while looking at case studies, country-wide problems, and regional beliefs concerning the goals. The goals are:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  1. Achieve universal primary education
  1. Promote gender equality and empower women
  1. Reduce child mortality
  1. Improve maternal health
  1. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  1. Ensure environmental sustainability
  1. Global partnership for development

When looking at these goals we had to understand that before we even can think about improving the water quality, lowering the infant and maternal mortality rates, or helping educate people from remote areas, we have to think about what they think of us. If someone you didn't know came to your house, started speaking in a language you didn't know, and gave you pills that they wanted you to take for some reason that you didn't know, would you take the pills? The likely answer is no.

What about if your country is suddenly in conflict with another, or disaster struck? Would you want people to come in, patch up the problem and leave? Of course not. The people in a country in conflict or in war could benefit the most from people that would come in and help them be successful by themselves. What every organization that goes to give aid over seas needs to do is create a way to help the local people how to deliver services themselves, so when the aid leaves they aren't left to spiral back to the way things were.

Often you will see people fundraising for certain diseases like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, or Cancer. A mindset that a lot of people have is that it's an "A" or "B" situation, meaning that they can donate to one OR the other. But really if you think about it, you can choose to donate to both. Maybe you have to split what you would normally give to one organization up between two or more, or maybe you can afford to support multiple organizations with the same original pledge amount, either way there is an option "C" when you are wanting to help a cause.

One of the largest world-wide challenges is dealing with access to fresh water. In rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia there is little access to water, and what water there is generally is unclean. The biggest issue with unclean water is when it has been contaminated by human fecal matter. While we said that 68% of the world has access to a sanitation facility, this doesn't mean that it is necessarily a toilet like the ones present in the Western world. In fact, up until a few hundred years ago London didn't even have modern plumbing, and the citizens used the River Thames for everything from their "toilet" to their source of drinking water. Around this time, the preferred method of wiping after using the toilet was by using the neck of a swan!

In many places, when the water is unclean the food is also unclean and often un-edible because of the fecal contamination. Without access to edible food, communities become malnourished, and must rely on foreign aid for food. It is sometimes hard to think about how lucky we are when it comes to food availability. For most people living in the Western world, we can very easily travel a short distance to purchase what ever food we want, be it locally grown produce or food imported from around the world.

By far one of the most important things we talked about it being able to minimize maternal and infant mortality rates. Proper sanitation is a great way to minimize the infection rate of infants and children with low immune systems, but another huge way to reduce this is by delaying the age at which women get pregnant and give birth. According to the World Health Organization, over 16 million women between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth every year. Many of these pregnancies are because the parents of girls in low income countries are in need of money, and one of the easiest ways is to marry them off. A way that the more wealthy countries deal with unwanted pregnancies is the use of birth control. Also, women in wealthy countries generally have more set plans for their lives, and usually having kids is behind many other things.

The last major thing we talked about was the advances of medicine throughout the history of London, and the "factory line" that was the soldiers lives. When wounded in battle, the soldiers were sent back to London by train where they entered a queue where they would either be cast aside to die, or put in another line to be reassessed. This happened quite a few times until either the soldier died, was diagnosed with a mental disorder (now known as PTSD), or was deemed well enough to be sent back to war.

Those who didn't survive were often grouped with many other men and put into unmarked graves. In London, this park is one of the large graves of over 20,000 men who dies during WWI. There were no actual memorials, so the park is what is there to remind everyone of the many casualties.
However, now many of the wealthy countries have universal healthcare so that everyone in their country receives care regardless of their income. In some wealthy countries, there are still private practices, where you have to either pay out of pocket, or but special insurance. In some cases, the private practices struggle to find patients, and on the flip side, many of the public services are often overwhelmed by the number of people they have to serve.

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